Tag Archives: Post-Slavery

Book Review: Wounds of Returning

We are pleased to announce that a new book review by postgraduate student James West of the University of Manchester has been added to the research section of the Black Atlantic Resource, which takes a look at the 2007 publication Wounds of Returning.

Jessica Adams, Wounds of Returning: Race, Memory and Property on the Postslavery Plantation, 2007 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press)

Wounds of Returning book coverThe author’s description of this study as an ‘eclectic, unconventional plantation tour’ (15-­‐16) probably best surmises Wounds of Returning, a highly original but often frustrating work on the spatial, cultural and ideological legacy of southern plantations since emancipation. Adams builds from a Lockean foundation concerning the connection between property and the individual to argue that race forms an integral part of the relationship between possession, property and personhood in the American south. Using a wide array of cultural and literary artefacts Adams assesses the ways in which plantation culture has been negotiated through film, music, literature and tourism …read more

If you are interested in contribution a book review to the Black Atlantic Resource please contact us.


The Brown Atlantic: Re-thinking Post-Slavery

Lai Fong, The Coolie Ship Avon Under Full Sail, c.1898

Lai Fong, The Coolie Ship Avon Under Full Sail, c.1898
The above ship carried South Asian indentured labourers across the Atlantic to replace the post-Slavery workforce.

The phenomenon of Indenture, which is addressed in the new concept of the Brown Atlantic, is introduced in the first essay in a series of three.  Entitled, ‘The Brown Atlantic: Re-thinking Post-Slavery’, Devi Hardeen’s study will present the interconnection of the Black and Brown Atlantic.

“Following a recent workshop, ‘The French Atlantic: A “Tricoloured” Ocean’, held at the International Slavery Museum (ISM), Liverpool, I was kindly invited to contribute to this ‘Black Atlantic Resource Debate’. One of the rationales of the inter-institutional project at the ISM was to develop greater recognition of Liverpool’s post-Slavery trading past. It is little known that four years after Emancipation, the first ships for South Asian Atlantic Indenture would embark from the city’s ports. The possibility of a site to reflect Liverpool’s continuing post-Slavery role was raised at the workshop. It was discussed that such a site would reflect the historical nexus between the metropole and the country of origin, India, in the legacies of Slavery. In Benjamin Disraeli’s ‘jewel in the crown’, a memorial plaque in Kolkata was inaugurated in January 2011 to commemorate Indenture. The site of museums as an interface between research, academia, and the public that can inform of the events and processes of Atlantic Slavery and its aftermath, led to positive discussions.

“Writing for this website, visitors will note that two years ago, again in partnership with National Museums Liverpool, seminars were held on the subject of ‘Re-thinking Post-slavery [sic] in the Francophone Caribbean’. Addressing that theme, within the scope of this essay, three main arguments will be attempted. In a three-fold approach, this essay will firstly introduce the new concept of the tri-partite ‘Brown Atlantic’. Thereafter, the first dimension of the concept, ‘Past’ will map the phenomenon of South Asian Atlantic Indenture. Thirdly, from this arena, study will focus on the Francophone and Creolophone mid-Atlantic island of Martinique. It will be discussed how we might ‘re-think post-Slavery’ by evaluating the impact of the Brown Atlantic, and by examining possible future avenues of exploration in the post-Slavery Atlantic world. ”

To read Devi Hardeen’s article ‘The Brown Atlantic”Re-thinking Post-Slavery” in full click here.

African Americans and the US Penal System

Trayvon Martin’s fatal shooting in late February 2012 has sparked off a whole host of debates around the problematic relationship of African-Americans to the US penal system in the popular media. Yet this has long been a contentious issue leading many to draw parallels between the contemporary treatment and incarceration rates, particularly of African-American men in the US, and former explicit regimes of discrimination in that country such as Jim Crow and Slavery. Such comparisons led one online blogger to claim that more black men are in prison today than enslaved in 1850, while there have also been a host of good academic studies in this area such as Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness – summarized via Worldcat.org as:

“…the book Lani Guinier calls “brave and bold,” and Pulitzer Prize-winner David Levering Lewis calls “stunning,” … In the era of colorblindness, it is no longer socially permissible to use race, explicitly, as a justification for discrimination, exclusion, and social contempt. Yet, as legal star Michelle Alexander reveals, today it is perfectly legal to discriminate.”

In relation to this Angelina Matson and the design team at Criminolgy.com created the graphic below illustrating case-by-case examinations of police brutality, for more information about this graphic click here:

Police Brutality: Know Your Rights
Created by: Criminology.com

Debates of this nature have been engaged with widely through the arts. Artist Coco Fusco for example, whose work appeared in the 2010 Afro Modern exhibition at Tate Liverpool, has engaged with issues of incarceration and exploitation in her writing (see At Your Service: Latin Women in the Global Information Network). Widening the debate internationally and also exploring the role of women in the US military as perpetrators of torture in the War on Terror Fusco published the work A Field Guide for Female Interrogators:

“Framed as a letter to Virginia Woolf – who argued that women could prevent war – Fusco asks elemental questions about how the US military has capitalized on the growing presence of women in its ranks and how it is adapting originally feminist ideas about sexual assertiveness in its interrogation strategies”

Also see our earlier post via curatorial fellows at MoCADA: Changing “The Master Plan” Hybridity and Black Art and Design.

Booker T Washington: Lifting the Veil of Ignorance?

A new profile has been added to the Black Atlantic Resource which explores the life, philosophy and contributions of Booker T. Washington in the United States.

Labelled by some as a submissive ‘Uncle Tom’ character in the story of the post-emancipation era, it’s time to readdress the role of Booker T Washington. A former-slave who worked his way up to become the most influential African-American of his generation, Washington had clear ideas as to the best ways for other black Americans to improve their own lives and, on a larger scale, improve the African-American experience as a whole. He was a successful teacher, author, political figure and orator.

Washington’s strategy was accomodationist. Promoting self-help and manual skills as oppose to liberal arts he believed that, after slavery, black Americans would be able to contribute and be accepted more easily and significantly in the wider national community through this approach. He argued that it helped African-Americans immediately and did not threaten the white community so garnered a significant degree of support among both groups, stating “A race, like an individual, lifts itself up by lifting others up.”

Due to Washington’s massive impact and influence sculptor Charles Keck created a piece for the Tuskgee Institute in 1922. It is called Lifting the Veil of Ignorance (click here for an image). Washington is depicted lifting a veil from a slave. This represents his goal of bringing African-Americans a better life through a better education. The slave crouches on a plow and anvil, which symbolises the Washington and Tuskegee’s focus on agriculture and industry.

However many came to disagree with this focus. Was Washington lifting the veil of ignorance or keeping it in place? In his novel Invisible Man, Ralph Ellison described his response to this debate: “I am standing puzzled, unable to decide whether the veil is really being lifted, or lowered more firmly in place; whether I am witnessing a revelation or a more efficient blinding.”

Considering how the black minority in the United States should deal with oppression after slavery formed one of the most significant debates in African American history. W.E.B Du Bois believed Washington’s strategy was flawed. He proposed that blacks should constantly challenge their position in society and that the ‘talented tenth’ would demonstrate their potential. Marcus Garvey agreed that African Americans should embrace self-help and improve their economic base through manual work; however he worked towards total separation of the races.

This division of strategies and philosophies between three leading African-American figures of the early twentieth century divided not only the energies of the wider African-American population in the United States but also became a major obstacle for collective progress. How far should this effect our views on Washington and his contribution?

Click here to read more about Washington and continue the debate by commenting below.

Re-thinking Postslavery symposium 2/3 July 2010

Following on from Friday’s very interesting Workshop on Postslavery in the Francophone Caribbean – the closing event in the series:  ‘Re-thinking Postslavery’ Workshops is to be held this Friday and Saturday 2/3 July -with a great line-up:

Re-thinking Postslavery

2-3 July 2010 / International Slavery Museum, Liverpool

Friday 2 July 2010

13:00     Coffee and sandwich lunch

14:00     Welcome

14:10     Reports on previous Re-thinking Postslavery Workshops:

  • Dmitri van den Bersselaar (Liverpool) on: Postslavery – examples from the Atlantic Basin (8 September 2009)
  • Olivier du Lac (Liverpool) on: Postslavery and Migrations in Africa (15 March 2010)
  • Anne Eichmann (UCLAN) on: Postslavery and Culture (21 May 2010)
  • Louise Hardwick (Birmingham) on: Postslavery in the Francophone Caribbean (25 June 2010)

15:00     Richard Benjamin (ISM) ‘Postslavery in the International Slavery Museum’

15:15     Discussion

15:35     Tea

15:50     Livio Sansone (Universidade Federal da Bahia): ‘Memory of slavery from nearby and the challenge of reverting the politics of forgetting in Brazil – with the help of affirmative action and new technology’

16:50     Close of day 1 [museum closes 17:00]


Saturday 3 July 2010

9:30        Coffee available

10:00     Denis Regnier (LSE): ‘Slave descendants in the southern highlands of Madagascar: an ethnographic account’

Aldrin Castellucci (UNEB Bahia State University): ‘Citizenship and politics in Post-Abolition Brazil: a study focused on the trajectory of a working group’

Renaud Hourcade (Rennes/Liverpool): ‘A mastered past? Negotiating the local memory of the slave trade in Bordeaux and Nantes’

11:45     Coffee

12:00     Bruce Baker (Royal Holloway): ‘Poor Whites After Slavery: Towards a Biracial History of the New South’s Working Class’

Catherine Clinton (Queens, Belfast): ‘Gender, Sex & Emancipation: Post-Traumatic Responses to Slavery’

13:30     Lunch

14:30     Discussion

16:00     Close


This symposium is organised by the Centre for the Study of International Slavery (CSIS, a partnership between the University of Liverpool and National Museums Liverpool), supported by an ESRC Seminar Grant.